A three-episode BBC documentary titled, “Disciples: The Cult of TB Joshua“, released on Monday, has uncovered alleged dark secrets of late Nigerian televangelist and founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly called TB Joshua.
In the documentary, which is the result of a two-year investigation, dozens of the former church members gave accounts of physical violence or torture carried out by Joshua and his cronies, including instances of child abuse and people being whipped and chained.
As part of the investigation, the BBC interviewed at least 30 former members and workers of the church.
The documentary revealed the clandestine lifestyle of the late Joshua, detailing stories of abuse, sexual harassment, rape, manipulation, and staged miracles which spanned over two decades.
Reported survivors of sexual exploitation narrated how they were manipulated and silenced even when they knew the relationship they had with him was abusive.
Many women narrated how he molested and raped them, with a few saying they tried to resist his assault at first but were threatened into submission.
According to one witness, Joshua told the women he was sexually assaulting them for their salvation.
A woman who gave her name as Abisola said she was in the church for 14 years and was raped throughout her stay.
She said when the women get pregnant as a result of being raped many times, they were forced to get an abortion in a dingy clinic inside the synagogue.
“We went into his room and I stood there. He said ‘off your clothes’ so I removed my clothes he just pointed so I lay down and then he raped me. He broke my virginity. I was screaming and he was whispering in my ears that I should stop acting like a baby. I was 17 years old. I was underage,” one of the women said.
One of the reported survivors confronted TB Joshua after she managed to escape. She recorded the encounter in videos she shared with the BBC. In the video, a security officer was heard threatening to shoot at the lady. Survivors said they were targeted, beaten, and shot at by thugs suspected to be working for the pastor.
The documentary also revealed how the church allegedly stage-managed and exaggerated miracles that were televised.
“People were told to exaggerate their problems so they could be healed, likewise, their healing so it could be perfected by God”, a witness who said he worked at the miracle department told the BBC.
“You’ve got this man who positioned himself as a father with many children and went on to rape, abuse, and molest all these people who call him daddy. How is somebody like that permitted to walk free.”
The documentary also delved into how TB Joshua allegedly maltreated and ostracised the daughter he had out of wedlock.
Ajoke, now 28 years old, told the BBC how she confronted her father about allegations of sexual abuse, and was subsequently thrown out of the church.
“The disciples dragged me out of the office, put me in a room and isolated me from the rest of the church. I wonder how I lived through that time because they were hitting me with belts, chains… I couldn’t take a shower for days. He was trying so hard to stop people from listening to me. He felt threatened by the fact that I knew what was happening,” she narrated.
Another aspect of the documentary that got Nigerians talking were revelations that TB Joshua was engaged in fake miracles.
Some of the witnesses gave first-hand accounts detailing how Joshua faked his “miracle healings” which were broadcast to millions of people in Nigeria and around the world.
One Agomoh Paul who was once regarded as Joshua’s number two man at SCOAN, said he left the church after staying in the compound for at least a decade.
Paul revealed that the whole “miracle thing” was scripted and acted out.
“That guy was a genius. Everything he did was planned out,” Paul stated, adding that a major part of the planning was the faking of the “miracles.”
Other witnesses who spoke in the documentary compared their experiences at the Synagogue Church to being in a cult.
They said they were often stripped and beaten with electrical cables and horse whips, and routinely denied sleep in scenes which looked like cult operations.
The response of the church is being awaited.